Reform of ‘non-disclosure’ in UK marine insurance law : exotic approach or original understanding?
A marine insurance contract is a contract of utmost good faith (uberrimae fidei), which requires the duty of disclosure prior to the conclusion of a contract. This is essentially stated in ss. 17 and 18 of the Marine Insurance Act 1906. Despite the 100-year application of these provisions, the defects are shown and the injustice occurs. The voluminous case laws and their complexity suggest nothing else apart from that this area of law is highly problematic. The criticisms are essentially rested upon two grounds: (1) the material fact which rests upon the view of the ‘prudent insurer’ makes it difficult for the assured to determine for himself the fact to be disclosed (2) in case of non-disclosure, the remedy of avoidance applies regardless of culpability of the party in breach. As such, the reform to the law is inevitable and the purpose of this thesis is to suggest how reform can be achieved. Two possible ways to bring the change to the law are considered. These are (1) to adopt the alternative solutions identified in other jurisdictions or (2) to re-consider whether the law on duty of disclosure as has been recognised since the seminal judgment of Lord Mansfield in Carter v. Boehm (1766) 3 Burr. 1905 has been correctly applied. This thesis concludes that the judgment of Lord Mansfield has been misunderstood in the UK and that, to constitute non-disclosure, only the deliberate intention is required and that the remedy of avoidance is justifiable upon the public policy ground. Such duty should be based upon the broad notion of good faith (bonae fidei), a flexible concept of fairness and justice. In the end, the draft provisions are formulated to reflect these suggestions.